THE SCOUTING REPORT
Take it away, HighTops:
Utah is 3rd in the Western Conference, one game behind Denver and 5.5 games behind L.A. They are 37-20 overall, and 14-12 on the road. Utah is 3-2 at home but 5-0 on the road in February.
The Jazz’s only trade deadline move was Ronnie Brewer to Memphis for a future first round draft pick which is Top-9 protected thru 2014-15. Wesley Matthews a 6-5 220 lb undrafted rookie guard has taken Brewers spot in the starting line-up. Matthews started 20 games early in the season, and averages about 8.4 ppg on 47% shooting. He puts up about two 3 pointers per game but is very streaky. After moving Brewer, Utah is down to a 12-man squad. They have 3 centers (Okur, Fesenko, Koufos), 5 forwards (Boozer, Millsap, Miles, Kirilenko, Korver) and 4 guards (Williams, Price, Matthews, Gaines). Besides Matthews the starters are, Williams, Okur, Boozer and Kirilenko. Millsap, CJ Miles and Korver are getting the majority of the minutes off the bench and Price is backing up the Guards. Fesenko is the main center off the bench, with Koufos relegated to the bench since his return from the D-League last month.
The Jazz are 7th in PPG and 6th in Points Differential with +4.75 per game. They are 1st in FG% at 49% and tied for 17th in 3P% at 34.5%, and they also lead the league in Assists with 26.2 per game. They are 20th in Rebounds, 13th in blocks, 5th in Steals, and they are 10th in turnovers. Williams, Okur and Korver are the only real threats from beyond the arc. And, Boozer, Millsap, and Okur account for 25 of Utah’s 41 rebounds per game.
Williams returned to the line-up Wednesday after missing Monday’s game with a left quad contusion. Williams put up 20pts/12asts in that game but was only 3-10 from long range so he might not be fully recovered. Kirilenko has missed the last 2 games and is listed as Game Time Decision with back spasms.
The Kings have only won 2 of 11 games in February, after only winning 2 of 13 in January. They haven’t won a home game since Jan. 26th, and have only won 2 home games in the last 2 months. They last faced the Jazz Jan. 29th in Utah, where they were defeated 101-94. The Jazz were without Boozer & Williams, and the Kings leading scorer in that game was Kevin Martin with 33 pts. Hawes was the leading rebounder for the Kings, pulling down 9 in only 22 minutes. Greene started at the 3, but got replaced 4 ½ minutes into the 1st quarter by Omri, after Kirilenko scored 2 quick baskets. Kirilenko ended up with 18/7, Greene never reentered the game. Brockman & May played a combined 25 minutes producing only 4 pts and 4 rebounds. Beno, Ime, and Noc combined for 11 pts, 6 rebs, and 4 assists in 48 minutes of PT. Price was setting picks on JT in the low blocks, and Martin failed to switch, so Millsap simply curled around the pick for an easy dunk. Millsap ended up outscoring JT 32 to 7.
In the first 2 games between these teams, Utah has averaged 100.0 ppg on 48.6% shooting and 33% from 3pt range with 39.5 rebounds and 21.5 assists, well below their seasonal averages in every category. In the 3 games since the Martin for Landry trade the Kings have been held to under 90 pts, and under 100 pts in all 5 games since the all-star break. Before coming to the Kings, Landry’s Rockets played Utah twice. On the 16th Utah beat Houston 104 to 95, Landry playing 24 minutes and scoring 5 pts on 1-4 shooting with 6 rebounds. Boozer had 12/8 and Millsap had 20/12 in that game. In the game played Nov.2, Landry had 10 pts on 2-7 shooting with 6 rebounds. So, getting the offense back on track will be critical for a Kings victory.
I hesitate to 2nd guess PW’s rotations for fear that TZ will take away my uni and force me to watch from the stands. So, I’ll try to be as politically correct as possible. Jason Thompson will miss up to two weeks of action with two fractures in his lower back sustained in the fall he took during the Detroit game. Brockman is out until Mid-March with a knee injury suffered in practice. Noc sat out practice because of a bruised left knee, and is listed as day to day. So, we’re fortunate that the Martin trade beefed up our frontcourt, even if it did leave a gaping hole at the SG position.
We’ve longed for a solid 3-man rotation at the 4/5. Hawes, JT, & Landry with Dorsey as a filler to help out on Fesenko would have been nice to see. But, the injury to JT is putting that on the back burner, and giving reserves like Dorsey and McGuire the type of opportunity they need to prove themselves. May replaced Spencer in the Detroit game, but Dorsey played the entire 4th quarter and offers better defense and rebounding in the paint. Both could see some time at the 5 but Dorsey is probably the first in to relieve Spencer. May could see time at PF, but its more likely PW has Noc or Greene backup Landry because of their offense. And, even though Donte has played at the 2 most recently, his defense is probably needed more defending Boozer & Millsap then Matthews. Omri had limited success defending Kirilenko, and whether Omri, Ime, or McGuire cover Korver, they’ll need to stay close because he’s hitting 57% of his 3’s. A four-man guard rotation of Tyreke & Beno with Cisco & Ime means either Cisco is going to play a lot more than originally planned or Beno & Tyreke will. With so many new faces, Tyreke, Landry and Hawes might have to play more minutes than their use to playing.
The Kings defense isn’t good enough to win many games if they can’t score over 100 pts. I’d talk about the defensive match ups but other than Tyreke versus Williams, there aren’t many we can win. Some of the rotations look better recently, but the pick & roll defense still isn’t up to NBA standards. Let’s hope with the new personnel and some practice time that the team defense starts to show improvement. Whether its Landry, May, Spencer, Dorsey, Noc, Greene or Casspi, our front line is going to have to play much better, and score more than we have in the past. Luckily we’ve had 2 days rest, so hopefully Tyreke and Beno are ready to put up big numbers, because I don’t expect to see a lot of scoring from the SG position. The Kings are hungry for a win, but the Jazz are desperate to knock Denver from the top spot in the Northwest Division. They will not take us lightly, having already beaten them this season. So, expect them to come out of the gate, at a full gallop.
THE KEY BATTLE
Carl Landry vs. Carlos Boozer, if only because Spencer Hawes vs. Paul Westphal is sooooo Wednesday. Landry would seem to be the right type of forward to cause Boozer problems when the Kings are on offense. But the story of this game isn't likely to be told at that end of the floor, and Landry has little in his toolbox with which to slow Boozer.
Joey Dorsey will officially become Jerry Reynolds's post-Brockman mascot.
7 PM PT. Two Game Threads (7 and 8:15) and a post-gamer at 9:45.